Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Caribbean sees drop in HIV, AIDS cases

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AFP) -- The number of people with HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean is on the decline, but more must be done to contain the disease, a senior official said Monday, on the eve of a regional meeting on the ailment.

The ninth annual general meeting of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) is to be held on the island of Grenada from October 28 to 30.

The Guyana-based PANCAP unit of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) headquarters said the region recorded 17,000 new infections last year compared to 20,000 the previous year.

PANCAP also said there were 11,000 deaths compared to 14,000 during the same period in 2008.

"The figures are still very high for such a small region," said PANCAP director Carl Browne, comparing the Caribbean on a per capita basis to sub-Saharan Africa.

Latest statistics show that 230,000 people in the Caribbean and 22 million in Africa live with HIV and AIDS. And the prevalence rate among adults in sub-Saharan Africa is five percent compared to 1.1 percent in the Caribbean.

Authorities say the decline in new infections is due to massive public education and increased condom-use, while the reduced number of deaths is a result of better access to care and treatment.

The estimated 150 participants at the PANCAP general meeting are to discuss the latest advancements in developing an HIV vaccine that has shown a 31 percent rate of success.

They will also examine the impact of HIV and AIDS on the Caribbean's finance and education sectors.

October 27, 2009